Site Working Again

31st December 20087:31 am

It took us a day or two longer than we had hoped but I am happy to report that ReelChanges is back in business after the nasty Denial of Service (DOS) attack that shut us down on XMAS eve. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of what happened, if only to prevent recurrences. And I am still stunned and amazed that someone was depraved or sick in the head enough to attack our site with the goal of shutting it down. I mean, don’t people like that have anything better to do? The good news is the shut down gave us a chance to make some improvements to the site, including performance enhancements, and the inclusion of new features, which we will be announcing shortly so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, though, is back in business just in time to receive any last-minute, end of the year contributions anyone might care to make.

December 26, 2008

DOS Attack Takes Down

Well, I guess it had to happen. Some malicious idiot picked XMAS eve to stage a DOS brute force attack on and successfully took the site down this morning. We’re currently working with our ISP to restore service as quickly as possible but I have been advised that it may be two to three days before we can safely bring the server back up because it has been infected with sophisticated malware of some sort. Our tech team leader wants to carefully examine what happened and figure out how we can prevent similar attacks before reinstalling the OS, system files, etc. ReelChanges users can rest assured that no critical user data (such as credit card numbers) have been compromised (they are all stored on Google’s server). In addition, all user files have been fully preserved. Perhaps we should be flattered that someone thinks us worthy of being attacked in this way. With any luck, we’ll be able to prevent future attacks of this sort and, in any event, we’ll be back in business shortly. Thanks for your patience and my apologies to anyone who may be inconvenienced. As for me, if the goal of the attacker was to make me angry they have failed. My only emotion is pity for anyone or any organization that would stoop to such as thing. A DOS attack may slow us down for a few days — but it will not stop us. I’ll update my blog when reelchanges is back up.

December 19, 2008

A Few Bad Apples or A Bad Orchard?

Bernie Madoff isn’t alone. In recent weeks, as the so-called “credit crisis” has unfolded, we’ve seen evidence of a catastrophic failure of leadership at the highest levels of our country in both government and industry. Apologists are sure to blame the usual suspects: “a few bad apples.” But for decades now there have been so many bad apples in senior positions of leadership in our country (do I even have to mention Bush?), with the sub-prime, credit card gouging Wall Street mob being just the latest example. That’s why it makes sense now, right now, to take a careful look at the tree that produced such strange fruit: our elitist system of higher education, which extruded the delusional self-absorbed jerks who led us off this cliff like pastry dough from a strudel machine. And yes, I am serious. I blame our colleges and universities for much of this mess and, in particular, for the abysmal aggregate quality of leadership in both our public and private sectors.

As I tried to explain in this column ten years ago, our higher education system, and particularly the so-called “elite” schools, have inadvertently contributed to the leadership crisis in this country in many ways, including by convincing so many of their students — the future leaders of America — that they are better and more deserving than everyone else. As I wrote, “the procedures used to determine who gets into a given college, and who does not, teach a lesson in exclusion that undermines everything else the professors might cover…when you tell some people they are better and more deserving than others eventually they start believing it.” And when their gold-plated academic credentials land them in positions of power and influence, all too often they act that way. (For a more detailed analysis about how a culture of shared prosperity has been undermined by the elitist structure of our higher education system, read this.) But put simply, our nation is now reaping, in institution after institution, what our system of higher education has sown. We’re not dealing with a few bad apples. We’re dealing with an orchard that produces a leadership class that is out of touch with, and often hostile to, the life experiences of the 97 percent of the country deemed unworthy of the best college education our nation can provide. What we should be about, by contrast, is finding ways to bring the best possible education experiences within reach of everyone. That’s one of the main reasons why I have spent so much of my time in recent years pushing for public domain textbooks and the open education resources movement.

December 05, 2008

Corporation for Public Broadcasting Gives Innovation Grant to ReelChanges!

Some great news to report about something we’ve been working on for months. Today, we received the official word that it is okay to announce that our Center for Media Change, Inc. project, ReelChanges, has just won a highly-coveted Public Media Innovation grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in partnership with Maryland Public Television (MPT)! CPB’s financial support will enable a nine-month pilot collaboration between MPT and ReelChanges to demonstrate how public television stations can use ReelChanges to generate a new revenue stream to support local program production. Special thanks to Mark Fuerst and Joan Rubel at the Integrated Media Association, who brought this opportunity to our attention, Rob Shuman, Eric Eggleton, Linda Quinn-Stein and Sharon Abernathy at Maryland Public Television, who helped craft and finalize our successful grant application, my longtime mentor, Marketplace creator Jim Russell, who brilliantly guided ReelChanges thru the grant application process and my colleagues at Texity, in Pune, India, whose fine work helped us win the support of the PMI grant application jury. I’ll post updates to my blog in the coming weeks and months with progress reports on this ground-breaking collaboration. But after more than two years of hard work, it’s really, really thrilling to be able to now say that “ReelChanges is supported by grants from Google, Inc. AND the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” What wonderful validation of our work and vision. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone involved!